The ESIGN act was passed in 2000, making electronic signatures legally enforceable. Since that time, the prevalence of electronic signatures has significantly increased. To put it simply – what was once an enterprise luxury is now a basic business need. In fact, 65% of enterprises will retire paper-based processes in favor of those based on digital transaction management (DTM) by 2017, according to analyst firm Aragon Research. The same analysts predict that DTM is poised to grow into a $30-billion market by 2020.
While there’s more e-signing taking place than ever before, many business users as well as the “Average Joe” still don’t know what electronic signature is and how it is secured. Further, they don’t know the distinction between e-signing, digital signatures and digital certificates – leading to confusion and concerns over security. So, let’s start from the top: what is an electronic signature?
What is an Electronic Signature?
As mentioned in a previous post, an electronic signature is any sound, symbol or process that is electronically associated with a contract or record that is adopted by the signer, indicating his or her intent to sign. Accordingly, electronic signatures can be verbal authorizations, electronically signed authorizations, or even the simple click of a checkbox. But let’s just get to the crux of the matter – there are two important components of an electronic signature:
One: that the signer’s intent to sign said document is captured
Two: that the document or record is verifiable.
What’s the Difference between an Electronic Signature and a Digital Signature?
Electronic signature is not the same as a digital signature, even though many use the two terms interchangeably. Digital signatures embed a unique digital “fingerprint” into documents and the signer is required to possess a certificate-based digital ID (a digital certificate) in order to link the signer and document. Digital certificates are digital forms of identification; you can compare it to the physical forms of ID, such as a driver’s license or a passport. These certificates are issues by certification authorities (CAs) and these authorities provide users two digital keys for the certificate – a public key and a private key.
When a digital document is sent and the signer has a digital certificate, he or she can share the public key with the document’s originator and then enter their private key when signing. While this process does succeed in verifying signer identity, it is extremely cumbersome, impractical and not viable as most signers do not posses these digital certificates. Moreover, digital certificates do not provide any additional security benefits other than signer identity verification.
Why Electronic Signature?
Electronic signature is the most prevalent method of executing agreements and making purchases because reputable e-sign providers are held accountable by the eSign Act of 2000 and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), which indicates high levels of security while still maintaining signer convenience; better put, AssureSign adheres to the gold standard of e-sign laws. As electronic signature continues to race ahead to becoming a mass-market necessity, security – in particular the integrity of the signature throughout a document’s circuit – remains a top priority for respected electronic signature providers, like AssureSign.
How We’re Securing Documents, from Start to Finish
AssureSign signers – from the owner of a “Mom & Pop” shop, to the large enterprise executive – gain peace-of-mind by knowing that their documents will maintain integrity at each interval of an e-document’s course. When a user sits down to create an AssureSign document or form, a unique mathematical hash value is placed on the document. This hash value, which can never be changed or modified, prevents AssureSign documents from ever being tampered with. If unauthorized changes are attempted at any point, the unique hash mark will indicate such, deeming any variation from the original document initiated as invalid.
Security’s put in place for while the documents are in motion as well. AssureSign uses 256-bit encryption to keep data secure while in transit from the originator to the signer and back. Each and every document also has a digital audit trail that records unique identifying information such as IP address, geo coordinates, browser, OS information and time stamp. These identifiers signal that the signer is, and can never be tampered with or altered. The audit trail ensures that each document is technically and legally unassailable, holding up in courts of law.
Maintaining such high levels of security and integrity is what has made our business so successful with businesses and enterprises. At the same time, the convenience of electronic signature for the signers is what’s made electronic signature rise in popularity to-date. For most people, electronic signature is the best choice and the most viable option for saving time and money…
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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